Fact Sheet: Caps On Compensatory Damages: A State Law Summary

Thursday, June 22, 2017

CAPS ON COMPENSATORY DAMAGES: A STATE LAW SUMMARY

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It is difficult to compare state laws that cap compensation to victims in civil lawsuits.  Most “cap” laws focus on non-economic damages,[1] although some state medical malpractice laws cap total damages (both economic[2] and non-economic). "Caps" also vary in size.

Many states exempt certain factual scenarios or specific types of claims from application of a state’s cap.  Some state high courts have examined the constitutionality of caps, while others have not.  And some states have re-passed caps after their courts found them unconstitutional, often making the constitutionality of such caps unclear. 

With that in mind, the following is a general rundown of current state laws that cap compensatory damages.[3]

 

GENERAL TORT OR PERSONAL INJURY CASES[4]

  • Non-economic damages caps (11 states): AK, CO, HI,[5] ID, KS, MD, MS, OH,[6] OK,[7] OR[8], TN
     

  • Caps found unconstitutional; legislatures haven’t re-passed them (4 states): FL, IL, NH, WA
     

  • No caps (39 states plus DC): AL, AZ, AR, CA, CT, DE, DC, FL, GA, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, ME, MA, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, PA, RI, SC, SD, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY

 

PRODUCTS LIABILITY CASES

  • Non-economic damages caps (11 states): AK, CO, ID, KS, MI, MD, MS, OH,[9] OK,[10] OR[11], TN
     

  • Caps found unconstitutional; legislatures haven’t re-passed them (4 states): FL, IL, NH, WA
     

  • No caps (39 states plus DC): AL, AZ, AR, CA, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, ME, MA, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, PA, RI, SC, SD, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY

 

MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CASES

  • Total caps (i.e., caps encompassing economic and non-economic damages, although some exempt future medical care ) (6 states): CO,[12] IN, LA, NE, NM, VA
     

  • Non-economic damages caps (26 states): AK, CA, CO,[13] HI,[14] IA, ID, KS,[15] MA, MD, MI, MO,[16] MS, MT, NC, ND,[17] NV, OH,[18] OK, OR,[19] SC, SD,[20] TN, TX, UT, WV, WI[21]
     

  • Caps found unconstitutional; legislatures haven’t re-passed them (6 states): AL, FL, GA, IL, NH, WA
     

  • No caps (19 states plus DC): AL, AZ, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, KY, ME, MN, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, WA, WY

 

STATES WITH CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS PROHIBITING CAPS

  • General torts (5 states): AZ, AR, KY, PA, WY

  • Wrongful death only (4 states): NY, OH, OK, UT

 


[1] Non-economic injuries include permanent disability, mutilation, trauma, loss of a limb, blindness, sexual or reproductive harm and other types of suffering and pain. 

[2] Economic loss is primarily lost earnings and medical expenses.

[3] Caps on punitive damages are not included in this analysis.

[4] Some states have separate laws capping damages in products liability or medical malpractice cases.   See page 2 for those laws.

[5] Cap applies to “pain and suffering” only.  Other kinds of non-economic damages are not capped.

[6] Re-passed after being found unconstitutional.

[7] One cap was found unconstitutional on procedural grounds but another cap is still law.

[8]Found unconstitutional but court reversed itself much later.

[9] Re-passed after being found unconstitutional.

[10] One cap was found unconstitutional on procedural grounds but another cap is still law.

[11]Found unconstitutional but court reversed itself much later.

[12] CO also has a separate non-economic damages cap.

[13] CO also has a separate “total” cap.

[14] Cap applies to “pain and suffering” only.  Other kinds of non-economic damages are not capped.

[15] Re-passed after being found unconstitutional.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid

[19]Found unconstitutional but court reversed itself much later.

[20] One cap found unconstitutional but another cap is still law.

[21] Re-passed after being found unconstitutional.

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